Art Comes First 

Pauline Black.

Singer.

Songwriter.

Performer.

Actress.

Author.

Commentator.

Style icon.

Cultural icon.

Legend.

Since 1979 she has been the frontwoman of a band who embody everything good about a multi-racial society.  Born to an anglo-Jewish mother and an African Prince father she was adopted by a white family and raised in Romford.  That’s quite the melting pot.

Out of that eventually came Pauline Black a force of nature on the 2-Tone scene in Britain.  She was smart in looks and mind.  Her songs blended the rockinest, rocksteady beats of ska with a sharp (S.H.A.R.P?) social commentary on life in Britain.  She was an original of the species.  

Her band, The Selecter, notched up 5 top 40 singles in a little over a year between May 1979 and August 1980.  They also released one of the defining albums of that era; the flawless “Too Much Pressure” which sounds as vital today, nearly 40 years later as it did on release.

What sets Pauline Black apart from many pop stars is the fact that she is a bona fide artist.  She isn’t doing any of the things she does for any reason other than she has to.  She isn’t saying the things she says on a variety of issues for any reason other than she must.  People like that in popular culture are rare.   We should cherish them.

Alongside long time collaborator Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson, Black has released a new album this year; “Daylight”.  It sounds like a greatest hits album but it’s entirely new.  It also doesn’t sound nostalgic, it’s full of energy and vitality.  A record made because…it had to be made.

Right now The Selecter are on a co-headline tour with old 2-Tone associates The Beat.   Each night they alternate who hits the stage first.  When I catch the show in Glasgow The Selecter are on first.  What they give is a live show that starts at 100 miles an hour and then speeds up.  It is, quite frankly, astonishing.

Black is immaculate in her black and white polka dot shirt, fitted black leather jacket, trousers so sharp you could shave with them and a beautiful pair of black and white shoes.  It’s the 2-Tone look but utterly of the moment.  Unlike a few faces in the audience this isn’t a fancy dress occasion for Pauline or Gaps…they are dedicated to the look and the sound.

A procession of magnificent songs from across their career are played with so much energy and joy and love that there isn’t anyone in the venue who can resist.   From the young kids who have discovered The Selecter through their parents records to the immaculately dressed traditional skinheads to the 2-Tone weekenders…everyone is smiling, everyone is dancing and everyone knows that this is something special.

The highlights of the set for me were three tracks from the new album “Daylight”; The Big Badoof, Daylight and Remember Me.  On record they sound good but live they sound like songs you need.  That’s testament to quite how good a band The Selecter are that they can be producing some of their finest work so many years after they first made their mark on the music scene.

The Selecter are on tour with The Beat now.

Daylight can be purchased here.

Huge thanks to Pauline Black for her support of the blog.

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